Staunton, October 26 – Democracy is a system which allows the population to “choose and replace their government through free and fair elections,” Vladislav Inozemtsev says. That is something that is not the case in Russia today, and there are five reasons to think it will not be the case anytime soon.
In an address to the Freedom Games in Lodz nine days ago, Inozemtsev discusses these five factors, provides arguments and evidence for each, and concludes that Russia will have a chance to escape its current undemocratic state only if and when most of the decisions which affect Russia are taken somewhere other than Moscow (snob.ru/selected/entry/99514).
The five factors he points to are as follows:
· First, “the personalization of Russian politics and the almost complete hostility to ideology, programs and methods of development,” something that means Russians identify with the ruler regardless of what he says or does rather than feel they should select a leader who reflects what they want.
· Second, “an attitude toward the opposition as a clutch of traitors and the deeply-rooted denial of its positive importance,” the tendency to treat any who oppose the authorities as dissidents with ties to foreigners rather than the articulators of an alternative set of ideas about how the country should proceed.
· Third, Russia’s status as a raw materials exporter, a country “in which the population in its overwhelming majority does not create wealth but consumes it” and therefore “cannot be democratic.” It is no accident, Inozemtsev says, that “the tradition from a participant economy to demands for ‘bread and circuses’ corresponded to the times of the transition from the republic ot empire in ancient Rome.”
· Fourth, the perception of Rusisans that they are necessarily an empire that must extend its borders, something that makes “democracy appear impermissibly risky,” given that those who extend the borders of the state will be forgiven almost anything (Putin) else and those who lead to their contraction will be viewed as traitors whatever else they may have done (Gorbachev).
· And fifth, “the growth of personal freedom in an authoritarian society in the most unexpected way leads to the formation of ‘an anti-democratic consensus,’” one in which individuals believe they can best advance their interests through the highly personal means of corruption rather than through collective action.
Because of these factors, Inozemtsev argues that there is little demand for democracy on the part of Russians. “The striving for freedom and autonomy, the feeling of superiority of individual goals over state tasks, an attitude toward the government as an institution for securing public goods and not a sacred symbol, a predisposition for collective action and not individual solutions of systemic contradictions – all these preconditions of a democratic society are largely absent in Russian consciousness.” And they are unlikely to emerge quickly.Only foreign influence can hope to change that when Russia achieves some kind of rapprochement with Europe for which democracy is a key element. Moreover, given the historical problems he outlines, Inozemtsev says that the required “desovereignization” of the ruler could be realized “only through the desovereignization of the state itself.”
In some countries that might be achieved by occupation, but given Russia’s size and power, that is impossible. Consequently, there is only one simple path forward: Russia’s joining a supranational union “with a single center of power and legislation” not in Moscow but somewhere else.
However bitter this may be, Inozemtsev concludes, he “does not see any basis to suppose that Russia can become a democracy beore the basic legislative, judicial and exxecutiv e decisions cease to be taken in Moscow. ‘Real sovereignty’ and real democracy in Russia are incompatible,” and that is why the path toward democracy is going to be so long and difficult.